How to Tour the Colosseum and Ancient Rome

The Colosseum

The Colosseum, together with the Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Imperial Fora and the Markets of Trajan make up the ancient heart of the city and vividly illustrate the history and power of the ancient Roman republic (and then, empire). Enthusiasts of archaeology and ancient history make the ruins located in this area of the city a mandatory destination.

PLANNING YOUR TOUR – The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and more…

Here is some helpful information on the best way to visit the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill.

Terrain and Temperature

The terrain of the area, especially on the Palatine Hill can be a bit uneven at times and will require a bit of climbing, in addition to lots of walking. Wear comfortable walking shoes and, for the summer, a hat is always a good idea. The summer sun can be quite harsh in the months of June, July and August so packing a supply of sun cream is essential. Try to find shade where possible, as most of the area is subject to direct sunlight and might become uncomfortable after an extended period of time.

Seasonal opening times

The Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill have a seasonal opening schedule. Please keep this in mind when scheduling a visit in the winter (late October through April). From April to August, opening hours are 8:30AM – 7:15PM. For winter months, sites begin to close around 5PM, with the ticket office closing one hour before the closure.

Colosseum Tickets – Information

Recently due to increased security concerns, new screening procedures were put in place for entry to the Colosseum. With only a handful of metal detectors at the only entry point to this popular site, wait times for the security line are significantly longer than they once were. By the afternoon they can be up to almost two hours. This is why touring with Context is always done in the morning when the queue is at its shortest. Just as at the Vatican Museums, the time is always used thoughtfully as Antonella Merletto reminds us, “even 2000 years ago, it took time to get people into the Colosseum!”

For more information about tickets to the most popular sites in Rome please visit: THE TRUTH BEHIND SKIP THE LINE TICKETS IN ROME

Arriving via public transportation

The archaeological heart of the city is extremely easy to access via public transportation. The “Colosseo” stop on the Metro B (blue) line is convenient for those arriving from Termini station.

For those arriving from the Spanish Steps/Pantheon/Piazza Navona area, the following buses all stop in the immediate vicinity of the Colisseum: 571, 87, 85, 60, 117.


Open University Podcasts on Ancient Rome
Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma – The official city site with news, opening times and more. The English section does not work, but the site functions quite well if translated via Google.
Ancient Rome Comes to Google Earth
Damnatio Memoriae – Article by Context docent Katie Parla about legacy and memory in antiquity.


Stratigraphy – a branch of archaeological geology, the study of rock layers and layering

Barrel vault – architectural element formed by a single curve that extends along a given distance

Stucco – fine plaster used for coating wall surfaces or molding into architectural decorations

Column – an upright pillar, typically cylindrical and made of stone or concrete, supporting an entablature, arch, or other structure or standing alone as a monument

Pilaster – slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall, most often rectangular in form

Monumental arch – an architectural style of arch built to celebrate a victory in war, but often used to celebrate a ruler

Porphyry – an igneous rock containing crystals, usually of feldspar, in a fine-grained, typically reddish composition

Travertine – a white or light-colored calcareous rock deposited from mineral springs, used as a building material

Basilica – an oblong building ending in a semicircular apse used in ancient Rome especially for a court of justice and place of public assembly

Tufa – a porous rock composed of calcium carbonate and formed by precipitation from water


Oxford Archaeological Guides by Amanda Claridge
Oxford University Press 2010

The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus by Paul Zanker
Michigan University Press, 1998

Ancient City of Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City ed. John Coulston and Hazel Dodge
Oxford University 2000

Roman Life 100 B.C. to 200 A.D. by John R. Clarke
Abrams Books 2007

Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome by Chris Scarre
Penguin Books 1995


753 B.C. – Foundation of Rome

753 B.C. – 510 B.C. – Regal period

270 B.C. – Overseas expansion begins

509 B.C. – 31 B.C. – Republican period

90 B.C. – 89 B.C. – Social wars

90 – 31 B.C. – Civil wars

March 15, 44 B.C. – Assassination of Caesar

31 B.C. – Battle of Actium

27 B.C. – 313 A.D. – Imperial period

c. 70 A.D. – 80 A.D. – construction of the Colosseum (listen to Context docent Valentina Follo discuss this monument on Smarthistory)

313 A.D. – Edict of Milan

315 A.D. – Arch of Constantine built (listen to Context docent Valentina Follo discuss this monument on Smarthistory)

324 A.D. – Byzantine Empire – (Constantine moves capital to Byzantium)

1453 A.D. – Fall of Constantinople

Ancient Rome Images

To help prepare you for your tour of ancient Rome we have inserted a selection of our most salient photography of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Trajan’s Markets.

Ancient Rome Video

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